In Australia, we celebrate that homeless people can sleep on inflatable mattresses in car parks whilst tax-payer money supports casino’s and coal mines owned by businesses overseas.
In the UK the NHS is crippled, and on its knees, yet year after year big profitable businesses don’t pay any tax.
COVID has tested us, our communities and our Governments. Now, most Governments are focused on a ‘fast and furious’ return ‘back to normal’. ‘Normal’ is people back at work and a strong, growing economy. But, that pre-COVID19 ‘normal’ wasn’t really very good. Back then
- 25% of all food was thrown in the bin.
- One in five men had no friends.
- Fast fashion clothes were bought, worn once, then given away.
- Children were banned from school playgrounds due to excessive or illegal levels of traffic pollution.
Most Governments and Councils didn’t have the money that they urgently needed for essential healthcare, aged-care, education, the environment, emergencies, droughts, floods, bushfires, climate change, domestic violence, homelessness and unemployment, to name but a few.
COVID has shown everyone that change can happen very quickly, within a couple of weeks:
- Our skies are clearer and cleaner
- We can hear the birds singing
- People are walking, cycling and jogging around their local streets
Almost everyone wants change. Very few want to change. And even fewer are willing to make sacrifices. We’re not even all in this COVID crisis together. Hardly any MP’s and senior bureaucrats have suffered a reduction in pay. And therein lies just some of the problems.
Our lives have been comfortable. We like it that way. Most people don’t want their pre-COVID comfort confronted. We love luxury cars, detached homes and widescreen TVs. We want monthly pay cheques and to be paid when we’re sick. We like cheap travel, frequent flyer points and drinking cocktails next to the beach. We love cheap fuel, free parking and things ‘on demand’. We enjoy take-away Latte in disposable cardboard cups. We want lifestyle and choice, and to buy from all the best brands.
The BMW Guggenheim Lab in New York, Berlin, and Mumbai (2011 to 2014) explored the theme ‘Confronting Comfort’. The Lab explored how to find a balance between notions of modern comfort and the urgent need for environmental and social responsibility in a highly globalized and urbanized world. The Lab set the stage for engagement with and about complex urban issues. The Lab teams (of which I was one) challenged and asked important questions about the social dynamics of food, water, agriculture, housing, health, transport and work. How we live our lives has become one of the pivotal questions of the 21st century. Now, more so than ever, as we grapple with the threats and opportunities of life beyond COVID19.
This is how we ‘Confront Comfort’ and create change.
- Be positive. Creating change is about talking and writing in positives; it’s about what we can do, not what we can’t do. That’s how we empower people and create positive change.
- Create an appetite for change. Invite people to question and discuss the impact pre-COVID ‘normal’ had on their daily life, their time, their money and their health. Question the difference between what was undesirable then and what is desirable in the future.
- Overcome people’s anxiety. To create change we must anticipate and negate people’s fears. Avoiding loss is more important to most people than seeking gain. People want their fears alleviated. Talk about those people who are successfully doing things differently.
- Help people build new habits. Driving 2km’s to work, buying fast fashion and throwing away food were all habits. It takes 21 days to break a habit. Help people to create new habits; start with small habits. They’ve probably even started some of those new habits during COVID19.
Obama’s Chief of Staff said “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”. I strongly agree. Will we ‘Confront our Comfort’ and create change? I doubt it. I don’t think enough people are willing and prepared to change. I suspect we’ll return to that old ‘normal’, because greed will always lead.